STORY PREVIEW

2018

Carbon Crusaders

Navrachana Vidyani Vidyalaya

Gujarat

MENTOR

Surbhi Upadhyaya

STUDENTS

Jay Maheshwari,

Mrunalee Chitaliya,

Zalak Rewar,

Thiya Chaudhari,

Yashvi Shah,

Step 1 FEEL

• Deforestation • Fatal climate changes • Increase of population • Increasing pollution • High level chemical pesticides used and found in vegetables and fruits

Shrinking green cover. Most of the problems which we are facing currently are mainly due to deforestation and the reduction of green cover from the world. We have been spoiling the nature since hundreds of years which has already caused a huge imbalance in the environment and as a result, every day many people die due to floods, pollution, droughts, earthquakes etc. We felt, as humans we are just taking or many times snatching so much from Mother Nature, and there is literally no contribution except for increasing the carbon levels! So, we gathered up and chose to go for a project that could contribute to increasing the green cover and do something to reduce the carbon levels from the world, starting with our own school.

The entire world is affected by this problem in some way or the other. Under the disguise of development, modernization, industrialization, security and chemical warheads we have rendered permanent damage to the surrounding atmosphere. Air is polluted and this has resulted in many respiratory diseases, lack in working efficiency and many more problems in humans. Also thousands of species have become extinct due to global warming which has led to many natural calamities. We felt, an initiative toward increasing oxygen levels and spreading this message could be our baby steps to improve the quality of air we breathe.

Step 2 IMAGINE

Plants being the only natural factories of Oxygen, we came up with ideas like: • planting sapling on unused lands in our surroundings • doing vertical plantation on walls • plantation in unused plastic bottles

We chose to implement the idea of vertical gardening keeping in mind lack of availability of empty horizontal spaces to grow trees. Also, anyone can implement it without requiring any place on the ground, just using any of the unused walls in their surroundings. A research done at our end showed that there were plants like Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum), Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) and Areca Plant (Dypsis lutescens) that gave oxygen at day and also at night. These plants could also be planted inside the house! The research also stated that if two such plants are planted per person; it could replenish the oxygen used by that person. We imagined, if we could use such plants and create a vertical garden in our school, we could achieve two targets, beautifying the school and most importantly building an Oxygen Wall!

Step 3DO

We divided our action plan into phases: Phase 1 Creating an oxygen wall in the school campus. • We thought of using the scrap furniture of school to build the wall initially, but since this was involving metal, and plants had to be watered regularly, it could lead to corrosion and the structure would be weakened. So we chose the entrance wall of the school and decided to hang the plants directly on the wall by nailing the wall. • The next step was to choose a container or pot which we could hang. Since plastic waste is again a rising issue, we chose to take used plastic bottles. We had already zeroed on the type of saplings we wanted to plant i.e. money plant. So we got a circular issued from the school to the students of Class IV-XII to bring used plastic bottles and a money plant sapling. Saplings were thereby planted in used plastic bottles after cutting a part of them horizontally, and hung on the wall using metal wires. • To allow passage of water, holes were made in the bottles. All the rows of bottles were aligned one below the other so the extra water of the top bottles fell in the lower bottles. • Also, to avoid washing away of soil and increasing the moisture in the soil, we used dry coconut husk and placed them first in the bottle before filling the soil. The soil was enriched with natural manure and earthworms for better health of the plants. • Since we also got a lot of fragile plastic bottles (the ones used to sell portable/mineral water) which could not be used for hanging, we made a boundary using such bottles and planted snake plants in this boundary. We completed the wall featuring money plants and snake plants which give oxygen day and night. • We wanted to feature the school initials on the wall hence used purple henna plants (Lawsonia inermis) to make NVV (Navrachana Vidyani Vidyalaya) stand out distinctly. We took help of our school Art teacher for the same. • Since we were using waste plastic bottles, coconut husk, money plants which was all available free, it made our project cost-efficient as well. We had a mission in mind – reducing carbon dioxide and increasing oxygen, so we called ourselves Carbon Crusaders, on a mission, #MissionZeroCarbon. Throughout the project we had a helper from school who guided us on correct plantation techniques. Phase 2 “It is better to be an Earthen Lamp than a Philosopher's stone (parasmani)”; in sync with this ideology and with a fire of spreading awareness of need of oxygen walls in our hearts we set out to ignite young minds. We achieved this by talking to students in our school explaining the need of putting up oxygen walls and pillars in school. Carbon Crusader team also went to different schools in the locality and propagated the mission, encouraging developing an oxygen wall in each school. Phase 3 Involving parents and ex-students community in this mission on Independence day. An oath on protecting and sustaining the plantation was administered. Parents and ex-students joined in the plantation drive by hanging the bottled saplings in the school corridors. Phase 4 Building a strong team of carbon crusaders (students and teachers) volunteers in school • These volunteers were sensitized on building movable oxygen walls and pillars in the school building using scrap – discarded window panes and broken chairs that created the structure to hang the bottles which could not be used on the initial wall and working on sustainability of each wall. • Under the guidance of a Science teacher the volunteers prepared a cocopit that was used as natural manure for the plants. • The volunteer students did the manuring and watering of plants in the entire school where such walls/pillars were built. • A team of students were assigned task of designing badges for these volunteers. The badges were created from the best designed and awarded to the core team by the Principal and the volunteers by the core team. This brought about a sense of responsibility towards nurturing the plants. Phase 5 Reaching out to local administration and sharing our concern towards increasing carbon levels and our initiative to plant saplings that give oxygen day in day out. We met the Area Corporator and Deputy Mayor and shared our journey. We requested them to implement this concept in public places and government offices that could improve the ambience too. They appreciated the idea, extended their best wishes and promised of providing any help required to further promote the concept. Phase 6 Reaching out to citizens, neighborhood and encouraging people to plant such air cleansing plants in the house since they are low maintenance, easy to procure and the health benefits were immense. Phase 7 Sharing views and involving local contractors to enhance the implementation in new constructions so that there is a ready arrangement to hang or plant such saplings. Phase 8 Sharing the concept on social media and making an army of Carbon Crusaders. For this we made a video promoting making Oxygen Walls and reusing plastic bottles for planting the saplings. This video was shared with family, friends and the concept was well appreciated.

We managed to turn our empty school wall into a beautiful, cleaner and greener wall. It became famous as the Oxygen Wall of the school and became a Photography Wall too since photographs were clicked with this wall as a back drop! The school corridors no longer bore a dull look as the pillars had money plants hanging and decorative sapling hanging that were hung during the Independence Day celebration. Volunteers poured in to shoulder responsibility of watering the plants, manuring them and replacing the dead plants. We also managed to ignite the youth to take the project on a larger scale. Parents who had farming background and/or were farmers by profession provided with useful tips towards maintenance of the Oxygen Wall. When we explained how the humble money plant, snake plant gives oxygen day and night and how this would cleanse the air in the house and surrounding, people were initially surprised (since for them plants give oxygen only in day) but appreciated the health benefits. We encouraged people whom we met to plant at least 2 saplings. This is a small step towards the replenishment of oxygen in nature. And such small steps can lead to big changes like reducing the carbon footprint.

More than 100

People’s reviews were extremely positive and motivating: • Our ex-student Priyam Duggad said ‘The wall is really looking attractive! We’ll implement this concept in our college’ • On watching our promotion video, Ms. Anuradha Sharma from the United States of America said ‘Good job! I personally think it’s creative and clever that the students are engaged in climate sustainable and renewable energy sources. I will try from time to time to see if I come across similar methods in our schools. Anything to clean the pollution that India has been creating and emitting is a way to become environmentally healthier and responsible!’

We faced quite a few challenges: • Availability of used bottles • Seeming waste plastic bottles, but cutting of these bottles using paper cutters was quite difficult and required a lot of precision • Making holes in the bottles for water outlet and putting strings using incense sticks was time consuming • When we started the project it did not rain for 15 days. As soon as the project was completed, after the Independence Day it rained very heavily overnight. We feared soil erosion and damage to the plants. • Sustainability of bottles is a big issue We followed these steps to overcome the challenges: • For bottles, we asked students of our school to get them from their houses. When we could not get more bottles, we contacted few restaurants and waste wholesalers (pastiwala) in the city and procured the bottles. We even put to use the tender plastic bottles to make a boundary of our wall and planted snake plants in the boundary. • For making holes, we used a soldering iron to speed up the project implementation. • We were delighted to see that our Oxygen Wall stood unaffected by heavy rains which showed that the concept was durable and not a temporary one. There was no soil erosion or water logging. • We made volunteers from Class 7 to 9 in our school to water the plants and replace the bottles with time. Thus, sustainability problem was solved.

15-30 Days

Climate Change

With each passing day the carbon levels are increasing tremendously and at the same rate, the oxygen level is decreasing. As a result, global warming, greenhouse effect and sudden and extreme climate changes are increasing. Our project is a dream, an initiative to instill the sense of responsibility to grow as many plants as possible that give oxygen day and night so that the oxygen level exceeds the carbon level (hence the mission statement #MissionZeroCarbon), and we reduce the carbon footprint, we reverse the climatic imbalance, reduce respiratory and stress related diseases and see a brighter and better future on this green beautiful earth. Our project helps in increasing oxygen levels in the society without using much ground space and is also highly cost efficient, allowing everyone to implement it. This project is highly sustainable and can be done by anyone. There remains no room to debate on plantation if horizontal space is not available, a vertical cover just does as good. Thus, contributing to increase the vertical green cover would actually be a crusade against carbon. Now is the time for us to wake up and repair the damage we have done to the nature.

Step 4 SHARE

We shared the project among the students of our school by going to various classes and explaining them and also by talking to the teacher community of the school. We also administered an oath on the Independence Day, involving the parent community, ex-students thereby spreading the project on a larger scale. We also went to various schools and had a word with the principals and student council and students, met the corporator, various contractors and the Deputy Mayor of the city, and shared our project. The ‘Oxygen Wall’ promotional video was an instant success as the responses from whomsoever saw the video was motivating and all appreciated this innovative idea. Many of them also showed a positive response to implement it.

More than 100

For the sustainability of project: • We made volunteers from the school to water and manure the plants and take care of them • We handed over a bottle of money plant sapling to everyone we met to discuss the project, as a token to continue the process of plantation in the surrounding • The project will be mentioned in the Valedictory Function of the school where we the students of standard 12 will request the teachers and students to continue with the Carbon Crusade • The council of our school will hand over a money plant sapling to the upcoming council next year and thereby reinforce the project and make it a part of the school culture.